Tuesday, August 7, 2012

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Three years ago, the iconic Gibson Guitar Company was raided by the Gestapo federal agents, not once but twice. In the second raid, armed SWAT-like teams of federal officers with serious automatic weapons entered Gibson's factory and seized approximately a million dollars-worth of alleged contraband. Cocaine, you ask? Stinger missiles? Vats of moonshine? No, it wasn't any of those. It was exotic wood imported from India and Madagascar. Pretty dangerous stuff.

The great underlying felony was an alleged violation of the Lacey Act which bans the importation of loosely-defined endangered wood products. The two major woods involved in the raid are ebony and rosewood. India does not name either ebony or rosewood as endangered trees, but if the feds say they are, they must be. The act (if you can call it that) of possessing an inventory of exotic woods is not in and of itself a crime. Even the Lacey Act purports to regulate the importation of exotic woods, not to forbid it or make importation a criminal act. But concealment, now that might be a federal crime requiring a D-Day style invasion.

The raids were supposed to seize records which might indicate that at least some of the wood in Gibson's inventory was forbidden fruit, which then allowed a bootstrap armed raid to seize the wood which may or may not have been imported in violation of the Act. I haven't seen that much firepower since the feds grabbed little Elian Gonzales to send him off on a permanent vacation with his family in Cuba. I don't know what the feds expected. Look-alikes for Les Paul and Mary Ford armed with AK-47s and Uzis to keep them from seizing the fingerboards maybe?

This was all set up with the approval of President Barack Obama and his sterling Attorney General Eric Holder. It was one of their earliest “green preservation” initiatives. So you know there were no politics involved. In fact, Holder himself stated categorically: “ The actions that we take in all matters are based on the facts, the law, and the enforcement responsibilities that we have. We have no politics involved. That's not how we make decisions in this department.” You believe him, don't you?

But it does make one wonder, does it not? There are dozens of guitar manufacturers using the same woods from the same places. A few of the larger firms are serious competition for Gibson. But only Gibson was targeted. There is one small difference between Gibson and the other companies. The latter are either in the Democratic camp or quietly neutral. The CEO of Gibson, Henry Juszkiewicz, is a major Republican contributor and bundler. In addition, Gibson is proudly a non-union shop. Juszkiewicz is not shy about his public criticism of Obama and the entire administration.

Three years and millions of dollars in attorneys fees and investigative costs later, the most the government could prove was that Gibson may have been in violation of the Lacey Act solely because of a paperwork error in which Gibson accidentally exceeded its allowable inventory of exotic woods (largely the ebony). This attack also resulted in lost production, laid-off employees, lost income and therefore lost taxes. Try explaining that to a statist/socialist bureaucrat. All of this could have been avoided. Juszkiewicz stated that it was a matter that “Could have been addressed with a simple contact from a caring human being representing the government. Instead, the government used violent and hostile means.”

On August 6, the company and the government issued joint statements settling the case. Gibson will pay a $300,000 civil penalty along with a $50,000 payment to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (which quarterbacked the original investigation) which will research tree conservation activities (in India?). But Jerry Martin, US Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, just couldn't leave well enough alone. It was apparent that the government simply couldn't make its criminal case. But that didn't stop him from announcing: “This criminal enforcement agreement goes a long way in demonstrating the government's commitment to protecting the world's natural resources.”

In exchange for not having to continue throwing good company money after bad, the company gets its seized inventory back. That's a million dollars right there. In addition, it can continue to import ebony and rosewood so long as it is more scrupulous in keeping accurate books reflecting the quotas set by the Lacey Act. And the government was forced to agree jointly with Gibson that both “acknowledge and agree that certain questions and inconsistencies now exist regarding the tariff classification of ebony and rosewood fingerboard blanks under the Indian government's Foreign Trade Policy.” If you read between those lines, what it really means is both the Lacey Act and the Indian Foreign Trade Policy are so badly-written, then and now, that unintentional violations are almost inevitable.

The official statement from Gibson was more accurate than that of the US Attorney. “The company is gratified that the government ultimately saw the wisdom and fairness in declining to bring criminal charges in this case.” And to put the frosting on the cake, the government was required to agree not to undertake any future actions against Gibson until such time as the Indian government modifies its laws either to specifically allow or ban the sale and exportation of ebony and rosewood fingerboard blanks.

All of this adds up to one simple thing. The Obama administration is determined to do whatever is necessary to cripple its vocal opponents. Obama's enemies list dwarfs that of Richard Nixon. The Department of Justice has regularly been ordered to perform what lawyers call “selective enforcement.” And Holder has done it with gusto and a straight face. During this entire three-year exotic wood witch hunt, not one other guitar manufacturer received even a kindly inquiry from the Obama administration about the possible use of ebony and rosewood fingerboard blanks.

Play on, Les Paul.


54 comments:

Joel Farnham said...

LawHawk,

In a fair and equitable universe, Gibson Guitar could sue the Government and Holder for the lost profits this adventure has cost. I think I preferred it when people would tar and feather government officials for capricious use of a sacred trust.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: Even in the real, not so fair and equitable world, I would have expected a little less zeal for pursuing Gibson and at least a pretense of investigating the many other manufacturers using exactly the same wood and getting it from the same sources. Even as early as his first year in office, Obama very clearly discarded propriety, or even the appearance of propriety. Every major action of the DOJ has been clearly and highly political. It even metastasized early into the Department of Defense, resulting in the outrageous prosecution of the Navy SEALs for making mean faces at an Islamic terrorist caught on a battlefield.

Although I like the idea of the government having to make Gibson whole, that's not a big deal for Obama or Holder. It just comes out of the public treasury ("other people's money") anyway. The Tort Claims Act protects public officials from personal liability except in extremely narrow circumstances, so Holder would go scot-free as well. Sooner or later, it's always the taxpayers and private businesses who end up footing the bills for these witch hunts.

BevfromNYC said...

So they couldn't get Gibson to bend over, so now they are going after Sheldon Adelson, a Romney supporter who has pledged up to $100m to Romney's candidancyor more accurately Obama's un-presidency.

AndrewPrice said...

That's too bad that Gibson paid anything. This is the kind of thing which needs to be stopped. This was abuse of power. This was a political attack using the power of government to attack someone for supporting the other side.

Tennessee Jed said...

makes Nixon's enemies list seem tame. Been to the Gibson factory. Neat place. Obama likes to have his boot on the throat of business, particularly those that oppose him politically.

LawHawkRFD said...

Bev: Adelson will survive, and he doesn't strike me as the type who will cave under the pressure. Gee, an investigation in Las Vegas for corruption and criminal connections. How unusual. That investigation is as likely to lead to Harry Reid as it is to Adelson. He already indicated his willingness to fight, having his lawyers prepare a libel suit against the DCCC for calling him a pimp. Once they saw they had a fight on their hands, they apologized and backed down.

Typical of Obama and his Obamateurisms, he picked on the wrong guy in more than one way. Adelson is a major philanthropist, and a big supporter of Israel and Jewish causes. If Obama's intention was to alienate his Jewish base, this was a very good way to go about it.

Even the Huffington Post saw through this transparent attack. I'd do a clickable link to the article, except that seems to be one of the causes of my disappearing comments. So you'll have to do it the hard way: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gary-shapiro/we-are-better-than-this_b_1734595.html

The easiest way to go to a link like that is to highlight it with your mouse, then right click. You should get a message that says "go to http://www.etc."

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: It is sad. But how many times have we had to advise our clients that the cost of litigation would far exceed any reasonable expectation of what would be gained by a tenuous victory in court?

I think what bothers me most about this case is that it was so damned blatant. Not even a hint of justification or fairness. Just a full-out attack on a political opponent. It's the worst major case of clear political intimidation by litigation, selective prosecution, and misuse of the offices of the Department of Justice that I've seen since, well, ever.

Kit said...

Lawhawk

How is this for a link:

LINK

Kit said...

Oh, and here is something in honor of the title.

LawHawkRFD said...

Tennessee: I bought my son an electric Gibson when he was starting his local rock band, The Screaming Yellow Weenie Heads (by accident, they all had yellow cars). He still has it twenty-five years later, though he doesn't have a band anymore.

It mattered not one iota to Obama and Holder that Gibson is an American institution. They didn't care that they put a lot of people out of work, many of whom probably voted for Obama (I'll bet they won't make that mistake twice). They didn't care how many people they hurt, and how much business was lost during an economic downturn. All they cared about was punishing a political enemy.

LawHawkRFD said...

Kit: The problem isn't with other people posting clickable links. For some reason, Blogger just doesn't want me to do it. And it only occurs in the comment section. Links incorporated in the article aren't affected. Thanks for doing what I don't dare to do.

LawHawkRFD said...

Kit: That's the one all right. The comments were unintentionally hilarious, particularly the obscenity-laced one from a fan of Lil Wayne (rap star and occasional jailbird).

LawHawkRFD said...

OFF TOPIC: Am I the only one who didn't know that today is "Kiss-In at the Mosque? Day?" I can't wait to hear the results of gays and lesbians kissing in front of mosques. I caught the article while looking for something else. It's from Victoria Jackson (who can't distinguish between "predominately" [a non-word] and "predominantly). Apparently at least some gays and lesbians realize that while the Baptists don't accept their sexual behavior, the Islamists want to kill them, in the most brutal ways possible. Good for them (the gays and lesbians I mean, not the Muslims).

Libertarian Advocate said...

They didn't care that they put a lot of people out of work, many of whom probably voted for Obama (I'll bet they won't make that mistake twice). They didn't care how many people they hurt, and how much business was lost during an economic downturn. All they cared about was punishing a political enemy.

LawHawk: I sometimes wonder if there are just a few in the MSM who are so embarrassed by the vicious partisanship of this "liberal" president and their own support of him in 2008, that it pains them emotionally at such a deep level that they cannot admit that they were so terribly wrong in their judgment of his character so they simply don't acknowledge his manifest flaws to protect their own sense of liberal identity.

But then my head clears...

LawHawkRFD said...

Oh--and here's the non-clickable link:

http://victoriajacksonshow.com/3712/gay-kiss-in-at-the-mosque-day-august-7-2012

LawHawkRFD said...

Libertarian Advocate: Good point. It's painful to admit a mistake and atone for it. It's nearly impossible to admit having made a major mistake such as enthusiastically supporting Obama. Some will have enough conscience to admit the mistake and try to rectify it. Most will simply attempt to delude themselves and others in order to avoid the pain.

Libertarian Advocate said...

LawHawk: Have you tried this html code in the comment section?

Link-text goes here

Libertarian Advocate said...

Oops. Sorry.

Here's a useful URL for HTML coding.

http://www.w3schools.com/html/html_quick.asp

LawHawkRFD said...

Libertarian Advocate: We've tried a little bit of everything. I'll review those suggestions, but Blogger doesn't like anything that doesn't fit their own preferred html code. With me, it occasionally doesn't even like that. Thanks for the info. Don't be disappointed if I don't try it. I'm a coward, and I'm looking for the coward's way out. LOL

LawHawkRFD said...

Libertarian Advocate. Thanks again. I may get brave enough to try alternate versions, but don't count on it.

Now Andrew tells me that even entering the non-clickable version of the link can be hazardous to my comment thread health. We've come to the conclusion that Blogger just hates me. Well, I hate 'em right back!

LawHawkRFD said...

Libertarian Advocate: I just took a look at the html instructions for links, and they're exactly the way we do them. Andrew first showed me how to do that three years ago, and up until a few weeks ago, I never had a problem with it. So my fallback position is "it's Blogger's fault."

EricP said...

Great breakdown, LawHawk. Sharing with all my guitar buddies, especially the lefties (i.e., most of them).

Though only an Epiphone imitation Strat player, will one day own an SG. Till then and afterward, will proudly wear my Gibson shirt, letting people known damn well why if they comment on it (most have no idea about the targeting).

Oh, if Kit's gonna share, I might as well get in some love for the finest cover these ears have ever heard: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zByqXu6nGYA.

T-Rav said...

Hey, if the Obama administration can have an enemies list of conservatives, then so can Google/Blogger....just saying....

LawHawkRFD said...

Eric: Thanks for the link. I knew Petty and Prince had done a performance of the song, but this is the first time I've actually seen it. That kid playing the guitar right behind him looks eerily like a young George Harrison. Do you know if he's a relative?

EricP said...

His son Dhani. You can't get any more spitting image unless you're Julian to John Lennon.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: But, but, but--my son is a senior software engineer at Google. Hmmm, maybe I should have bought him that Jeep Cherokee for graduation that he wanted.

Actually, he doesn't have a lot of good things to say about the Blogger division. Despite their public image, Google is neither as democratic as they would like to have you think, and their departments are heavily-compartmentalized. Still, they are very generous with their employees, including salaries, percs and benefits, but since it's private enterprise, they're not like the gummint.

T-Rav said...

Well LawHawk, of course Google can't be as wonderful as it appears. 60 Minutes did a piece a few years ago lionizing their workplace environment, for crying out loud. That should be proof enough.

LawHawkRFD said...

Eric: Got it. Boy, I really got a shock when I first saw him. The resemblance is frightening.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: Even at the executive level, I never was treated as well by my companies as he is by his. He no longer even has to drive to work. The Google van picks him up in Berkeley and drops him off at the office in Mountain View. He's been angling for the San Francisco office, so far without success. They get to dress casually, their lunches are provided by the company (and it ain't peanut butter and jelly sandwiches). I wanted him to be a lawyer, but clearly he's smarter than I am.

tryanmax said...

Eric, a fellow Petty fan?

This is probably completely inappropriate, but here is my LINK

T-Rav said...

tryanmax, I'm noticing you have a pattern of posting inappropriate/questionable links. I'm concerned.

tryanmax said...

T-Rav, why do you always have to rag on my links?

T-Rav said...

LawHawk, if a company provided its employees only with PB&J sandwiches for lunch, that would be enough for me. The casual dress is just icing on the cake.

I don't know about your son, but I could never have been a lawyer. I heard from some law school friends about the nature of the exams; I would have simply imploded.

LawHawkRFD said...

tryanmax: And we all know that the song had next to nothing to do with guns, right? Using metaphors for drugs was really big in the 60s and 70s. I sang along with Puff the Magic Dragon and Along Comes Mary and didn't know they were paeans to marijuana until years later. Likewise, Morrison's Crystal Ship. For a Berkeley radical, I could be incredibly naive. But at least I knew that Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was about LSD, so I wasn't entirely unconscious.

tryanmax said...

All I know is, these days, you can't use the G-word on the same day as the O-word without being accused of provoking violence. Heck, this morning, Imus decided the phrase "Stop Obama" was dangerous and inciting. No joke.

T-Rav said...

I wasn't ragging on anything! Just making an observation, is all. Sounds to me you're being pressured less by myself and more by a guilty conscience. But that's just me.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: I was lucky if I got rubber chicken once a year at awards banquets. Well, I do have to admit that one company gave my wife and me a week at a fine hotel in Palm Springs, all expenses paid (except for booze at the bar). They went broke shortly thereafter. LOL

Don't let them fool you. Law school just isn't that tough, and even though the toughest Bar Exams are extremely difficult, most of the pressure on the candidates is self-imposed.

My son dragged me in as an adviser to his mock trial extracurricular activity in high school. The first year, they finished second in the regional finals, and the next year they finished second in the state. He was the "lead prosecutor" the first year and the "lead defense attorney" the second year. He would have made an excellent lawyer (and law school would have been a breeze for him), but his heart wasn't in it. He was fascinated with computers from the day when he was eleven and I gave him his first computer (a Commodore 64). I didn't know from computers, and I thought they were glorified adding machines. I didn't even buy him a monitor (what's a monitor?). The next time I saw him at his mom's place after our divorce, he had wired the computer up to the TV in his room and was writing code. I still think what he does is black magic.

LawHawkRFD said...

tryanmax: It's gotten to the point where even the best of extemporaneous public speakers have begun to sound like they stutter. It's the sudden "can I say that?" hesitation. Political-correctness and the Democrat menu of acceptable words and phrases are ruining discourse and the English language.

LawHawkRFD said...

Anyone hear anything about the mosque kiss-ins, or was that just more hype from the left?

BevfromNYC said...

It was a commentary on Victoria Jackson's website. It was not real.

LawHawkRFD said...

Bev: It sounded silly and unlikely to me, but the opening paragraph says: "Homosexual activists declared August 7, 2012 as “Kiss-In at the Mosque” day in an attempt to bring attention to Islamic Homophobia. Same sex couples across the nation will be “kissing” in front of mosques in an effort to silence the “hate-speech” and “homosexual genocide” practiced by Muslims worldwide." I didn't read the rest very carefully, but I got the impression they really intended to do something like that.

I had never visited Victoria Jackson's site before and probably never will again. But it sounded like she meant what she said. Was it a gag, or is she just delusional?

T-Rav said...

OT update on Show-Me State politics: One of our congressmen, Todd Akin, won tonight's GOP primary for the Senate and will be facing the hacktastic Claire McCaskill in November. Nothing else of much interest, except that we also passed by an overwhelming margin a state constitutional amendment affirming the right to pray in school and in public. That's about it.

Individualist said...

You know it might do our side some good to hack emails from various DCCC individuals to try to find out if there is any plan to take out Gibson among the Poilitical class.

I beet if someone were to link these emails you would find evidnece that this investigation was planned for purely political reasons.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: What I've seen has indicated that Mccaskill is in trouble. Does that sound right?

How long do you estimate it will take for the ACLU, Americans for Separation of Church and State, The Freedom from Religion Foundation and the DOJ to file suit to prevent the prayer in school measure from going into effect? It has essentially been banned from schools and public facilities since the Warren Court.

Is it one of those statutes that allow for "a moment of prayer and reflection" or does it authorize the schools to participate directly in the prayer?

LawHawkRFD said...

Indi: I'm sure that's exactly what we would find. But that's a moot point now. The plaintiff would be Gibson, and they already agreed to the civil compromise. That only leaves complicated and convoluted legal issues and some ethical issues. Congress would be the only one with any standing to pursue it, and you've seen how long Holder can stall and manipulate. Fast & Furious was a much clearer issue and it has been hanging around for a couple of years now.

Individualist said...

Lawhawk

I think if we have an email from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, or Gibbs or Reid or any number of the movers and shakers demanding someone "get" Gibson or better yet showing they had knowledge of the raids before the justice department made them public then the release to the public could not be ignored.

Gibson unfortunately has been harmed and nothing is going to ever make them right. What this would do is expose the people that set this up behind the scenes. I am sure that this was done for these reasons. Communication is no longer private when it is through text, email or the web. It is possible that evidence of this can be iuncovered.

I know it is a long shot but our side needs to get aggressive. We have got to get this information and expose the people who are benhind it and bring them up on felony charges and if we can't then at least try them in the media. Until the progs get that they will not have carte blanche to do this they will continue to do this.

T-Rav said...

LawHawk, McCaskill is stick-a-fork-in-her done. Every poll in the state has consistently shown every challenger with a significant lead over her. I'm not overly worried with that race, though I will continue to watch it intently.

I don't have the text of the amendment in front of me, but if I remember correctly, it doesn't say anything about obligations on the schools' part, it just affirms that students have the right to pray in school. It may not survive contact with the courts, but given that it passed by something like a six-to-one margin, it at least sends a very strong message, which was probably the intent anyway.

LawHawkRFD said...

Indi: It sounded like you were suggesting legal action in the first comment. I misread that. If you're talking about political action, I'm all for it. It would take a lot of work, and would skate close to hacking and violation of law, but it's a risk well worth taking. We have to expose the scandal-ridden, ethically lacking Obama administration and all its high crimes and misdemeanors. On top of that, the scandals of this administration are real and evidentiary. The ones they're throwing at the Republicans are manufactured nonsense. That's what Republicans should be emphasizing. When the Democrats lie, call it a lie, not a misstatement, then back it up with easy-to-understand facts.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: Good to hear that about McCaskill.

As for the prayer amendment, it might just stand a constitutional test. If the time is set aside for everyone to pray or not pray as they choose, and does not substantially interfere with other students or damage the orderly conduct of business, it has a chance. A school official saying "let us pray" pretty much crosses the line. But a school official announcing, "it's reflection time" might just work.

EricP said...

A huge Petty fan, tryanmax. It's been too many years since I've seen him live, but still the most I've seen an artist/band, narrowly edging out Weird Al of all people. Mellencamp and Springsteen can play Guthrie wannabes all they want. Petty is American music.

@Individualist, love the idea. Sounds like a perfect job for James O'Keefe.

Patti said...

this is the place we are in this country: oppose the regime and you better be prepared for the consequences. infuriating doesn't cover it.

LawHawkRFD said...

Eric: I got a lot of laughs out of Weird Al, but I never "got" Cougar, and I've always thought Springsteen was whiny, pretentious, and a phony. His working-class hero crap just left me cold, and I've thought of him as a hype-master since the very beginning with Born to Run. I will admit that Born in the USA is the catchiest anti-American tune to emerge in the rock world.

LawHawkRFD said...

Patti: Caesar Obama and his Praetorian Guard are in deep poo-poo, and I don't think all their efforts to make the American people their servants by intimidation and lawfare will do them any good.

rlaWTX said...

yeah - and this is at work - no email was rough! I had to CALL people! ;)

[thank you for letting me believe)

Post a Comment